Bingeing, Binging, Binger–spelling check, please!

BW photo of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball in a skiing scene from I LOVE LUCY

If You’re as Chronologically “Mature” as I am…

… then you remember back when there was no way to record a TV show and watch it later?  You had to  sat and watched Ozzie and Harriet or I Love Lucy as it was broadcast, or you just didn’t get to see it–unless the show was successful enough to have at least 100 episodes in the can, so it could be picked up by one of the local independent stations and re-broadcast as re-runs.  

No home video tape machines. No video tapes to rent from Blockbuster (remember Blockbuster?) We all watched together, at the same time, in our time zone.

The world stopped moving on the three Sunday nights in February of 1964 when The Beatles performed on the Ed Sullivan Show.  By this time my family had a color TV and I risked radiation poisoning as I sat two feet from the screen and watched my faves perform twice per show.

Of course, my viewing habits changed with the times, from broadcast to cable, to video, to DVR, then DVD, then Blu-ray and now, Amazon Prime Video, Acorn, Britbox, etc.  

Which brings me to binging.  I am a binger (is that a word?)  Instead of music, I often play the entire Downton Abbey series while I write, like a soundtrack in the background.  If it’s British and has played on PBS, I am or have binged it: Death in Paradise, every episode of Poirot, Marple and Midsomer Murders, Shakespeare and Hathaway, Agatha Raisin, Wycliff, Upstairs/Downstairs, Upstart Crow, Upstart Crow, Upstart Crow…

Turns out that bingeing, binging, bingering–whatever–has also been a boon to our family during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown.

I only hope I can stop myself once we’re free to leave the house again.


My Storybook Childhood

Mine was a Storybook Childhood…

… spent just a few leagues from an Enchanted Castle, set in a Magical Kingdom that was ruled by a benevolent wizard whose powerful spells captured my imagination every time my parents took me for a visit.

The moment I walked through the gates of this magical land, I would be greeted by beautiful princesses and their handsome princes, despicable villains and terrifying dragons, fairies and pirates and a talking mouse named Mickey.  Yes, I grew up 10 miles from Disneyland, the original Magic Kingdom.

The photo is my almost 5-year old self on the draw-bridge of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in August 1955. 

The seeds of my passion for writing stories of powerful lords contending with their fierce-hearted ladies were planted in that enchanted soil long before I even knew how to read, let alone, write.  

The magic is plain: that little girl on the castle drawbridge grew up believing in Happily Ever After, because Romance is Timeless, Storytelling has No Age and True Love is Forever.

5 Confessions of a Romance Writer

Because Confession is Good for the Heart…

1.) It took me 17 years to write my first historical romance. Although it (the first 3 chapters) was nominated for RWA’s Golden Heart in 1989, the story itself was utterly unpublishable. Like a repository of bad writing, I keep the manuscript in the attic like an embarrassing uncle, where it takes up three computer paper boxes.

2.) I won the Golden Heart the next time I was nominated (with a totally different story) and sold it, as well as one other book, to Avon Books six weeks later.  All because I finally understood that old advice about romantic conflict: if he’s a firefighter, then she has to be an arsonist.  Metaphorically, speaking, of course. And that she must be acting out of an excess of virtue.

3.) I am a plotter, never been a pantser. Character first, a hero and heroine who will carry the theme and tell the story that I need to tell. By then I’m ready to apply the Hero’s Journey — the clash of their Ordinary Worlds in the Call to Adventure, the motivation to Cross the Threshold into the Special World of their relationship, the Supreme Ordeal, the Reward, the Dark Night of the Soul where each makes a sacrifice, choosing to give and receive unconditional love. Makes it sound easy, but each new book seems harder to write, has different issues than the one before.

4.) The release of a new book continues to thrill me.  A 5-star review sends me over the moon — “you like me! You really like me!” And I won’t consider myself a truly successful author until I see someone reading one of my books on a plane or in an airport.

5.) I deliberately used the surnames of 26 friends in one of my books: A SCANDAL TO REMEMBER.  While I was on a singing tour of the Baltic Countries I was also researching the history of small countries, duchies in the 18th century. To memorialize our 3 week bus tour from town to town, I thought it would be fun to include the members of the choir.  Some are characters, one is a statue of a local hero, one is the name of a village another is the name of a plant species in the heroine’s greenhouse!  Great fun!  FYI-SCANDAL is currently only available from 3rd party sellers, but I’ll be re-issuing it in digital and print format in December 2020.

Details, Details, Details!

Research and the Writer

Details, details, details.  Yes, that’s why you’ll find me on one of my historical research trips, shamelessly fondling fat iron door hinges, sniffing the fresh floor rushes in an Elizabethan kitchen, rubbing my cheek against a cold marble pillar in the sanctuary of Salisbury Cathedral, or groping my way through the cool, echoing underground caverns of Cheddar Gorge, where wheels of cheese are still aged on great wooden racks.

Yummy details that allow me to experience the height and volume of a castle courtyard or the oppressive closeness of the dank dungeon below. Details that help me put you, my readers, right into the scene with my characters.

I have loads of photos I could share with you, but I thought you might enjoy a few pages of the research I collected in 2007 at Haddon Hall, Derbyshire, UK — with my impressions, brochures, entrance tickets and the receipts I kept for the tax man.


Scrivener is my go-to tool for organizing my thoughts into a book.

It took me years of avoidance and experimentation to finally take the plunge and learn how to use its bits and pieces.  I’m so glad I did!

The best thing about Scrivener is its flexibility; it allows me to set up each project to mirror the way my brain works–imagine untangling a skein of wool after Mittens the Kitten gets hold of it and rolling the mess into a nice, tight, useable ball.

I have created a custom Project Template File which I can call up for each new book. The Project File has my own pre-defined folders for each step in my writing process and are displayed in the Binder on the left side of the screen shot of my WIP.

I can add, duplicate, delete any page or folder to the Binder, shift these around, move anywhere, up or down or to the trash.

The body of the screen shot shows the Scene Outline form that I developed over the course of a few projects.  I use the outline to think through the current scene. Set Up, Setting, Characters, the Action Steps, notes. The scene outline for any scene is never set in stone, my persnickety inner-editor is forbidden entry.

The example shows the Scene 5 folder as Thomas @ the Castle, the actual text of the scene is in the file labelled Scene Text 5 – 2020 EDIT; inside the Scene 5 folder are other files, such as the Scene Outline 5, Notes, Castle footprint, Great Hall, etc.  I put anything I might need to quickly get my hands on into the Scene Text Folder.

There are many other folders below the Scenes Notebook in the Binder.  Character Worksheets, Setting Sketches, Arcs, Research, Timelines, etc. But instead of trying to hold all this information in my head, it’s all just a click or two away.

Not only do I use Scrivener for my book writing, but also for organizing Gardening Projects into bite-sized bits, Party Planning, Travel Details ….

Check out Scrivener at Latte and Literature, if you’re interest in untangling your skein of wool!